SPAR 2008 welcomes increased attendance, vendors and technical seminars based on 3D data solutions.

The broadening of the topics, technologies and applications presented at SPAR 2008 indicate that many more engineers and surveyors are providing 3D laser scanning services. Photo courtesy of George Hixson.

SPAR 2008, held March 3-5 in Houston, was the fifth annual conference dedicated to the primary topic of 3D laser scanning technology and applications. This year’s highlights included mobile survey, LiDAR, dimensional control, asset management and BIM/CAD/GIS integration, to name a few. And for the second year, FSM 2008, sponsored by the International Association of Forensic and Security Metrology (IAFSM), co-located with SPAR. The 718 attendees from 21 countries and various professions represented an attendance increase of 30.5 percent, and a broad schedule of tracks, presentations and meetings supported the demand in this market.

A half day of plenary sessions and keynote addresses weaved into two full days of sessions that included multitrack presentations relative to process, power and offshore/marine applications, mobile survey, nuclear power, transportation, facility/BIM integration, new technologies, geotechnical engineering, historic preservation and standards updates. Additional sessions included an asset owner roundtable, a current market status on laser scanning, updates on modeling services in China and a service provider forum. Exhibitors also provided sessions dubbed “Technical Seminars” to further acquaint attendees with 3D laser scanning technology and instrumentation. Overlapping most sessions was the accompanying technology exposition, which drew a host of hardware, software and peripherals providers as well as service providers and a variety of organizations seeking to educate and inform attendees about various 3D data solutions.

An Expanding Industry

In his welcome and industry keynote, Tom Greaves, CEO of Spar Point Research LLC, highlighted a few added topics of the 2008 conference lineup, such as multisensor fusion that includes photogrammetry, digital imagery, sonar and GPS technologies. Greaves also emphasized tighter integration of 3D laser scanning with GIS and CAD making it more suited for applications such as building information management (BIM).

Greaves indicated that Spar Point’s research has revealed that the total worldwide market for laser scanning products and services has steadily grown from an estimated $65 million in 2002 to $88 million in 2004. He projected a total of about $400 million for 2008. Greaves also shared Spar Point’s estimated market share of the major hardware manufacturers of 3D laser scanning technology (see graph above). He cautioned attendees to consider several caveats for these statistics: they are not direct reports from manufacturers; they are often implied numbers from activity reports from owners and service providers; and there is a generous amount of uncertainty that must be applied to each proportion expressed in the chart.

Greaves’ presentation was followed by keynotes on the process industry (“3D and the Virtual World–Petroleum Refining meets Web 2.0”), mobile surveying (“Winning the DARPA Urban Challenge–the Team, the Technology, the Future”), forensics and security (“3D Laser Scanning in Law Enforcement, Security, Forensics and Homeland Security”), construction (“Application of Laser Scanning Technology and BIM in the Construction Industry”) and standards (“ASTM E57 Update”). The plenary session ended with an introduction of the exhibitors.

What's In It For Surveyors?

Many industry observers believe laser scanning technology will become a significantly used tool by surveyors, mappers and geospatial information professionals. SPAR 2008 serves as a bellwether to gauge the acceptance of the technology by these industries as well as their ability to market and deliver services formerly output with less detail, speed or completeness. The broadening of the topics, technologies and applications presented at the conference indicate that many more engineers and surveyors are providing 3D laser scanning services. These providers span the application spectrum from topography to facilities mapping and as-builts, from transportation structure-failure mapping to highway lane monitoring, and from historic preservation to visualization of a wide variety of scenes.

It is clear that surveyors are becoming more versed at using this technology and delivering expert services--more papers are presented by surveying firms and more surveyors are attending SPAR to learn how to use, apply and market laser scanning technology.

Standards Status

In both the keynote and a stand-alone session, standards relating to the manufacture and use of laser scanners were discussed. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has designated Committee E57 to develop standards for the performance evaluation of 3D imaging systems. Subcommittees have been formed for terminology, test methods, best practices and data interoperability. The Standards Update track further detailed this topic and provided opportunity for attendees to give input on specific standards. Committee members, which consist of several members from manufacturers, users and government agencies (including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST) were represented, as well. Committee E57 progress can be found atwww.astm.organd by typing “E57” in the search box.

FSM Links Measurement Knowledge

While most attendees of the FSM subconference featuring security and metrology were officials from police and security agencies and vendors, several surveyors, archaeologists and other professionals involved in this type of work attended, as well. At FSM conferences, several SPAR attendees with measurement knowledge--including surveyors--had the opportunity to develop an appreciation for new areas in which to work with forensic and security professionals.

Special reporting by Joseph V.R. Paiva, PhD, PS, PE.